I was actually tempted to try and watch the Super Bowl, at least halftime, because the trailers
for GI Joe and Transformers 2 are premiering during half time.
However, that didn’t last long, as I remembered one of my biggest objections to professional football.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. 10 But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. (Ex. 20:9-10, Douai-Rheims).
12 Observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. 13 Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. 14 The seventh is the day of the sabbath, that is, the rest of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not do any work therein, thou nor thy son nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy ox, nor thy ass, nor any of thy beasts, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest, even as thyself. 15 Remember that thou also didst serve in Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out from thence with a strong hand, and a stretched out arm. Therefore hath he commanded thee that thou shouldst observe the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”96 The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.97 (CCC 2172)
The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.”109 Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people. (CCC 2176)
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.123 Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health. (CCC 2185).
Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life. (CCC 2186).
Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees. (CCC 2187)
Until quite recently, it was easier in traditionally Christian countries to keep Sunday oly because it was an almost universal practice and because, even in the organization of civil society, Sunday rest was considered a fixed part of the work schedule. Today, however, even in those countries which give legal sanction to the festive character of Sunday, changes in socioeconomic conditions have often led to profound modifications of social behaviour and hence of the character of Sunday. The custom of the “weekend” has become more widespread, a weekly period of respite, spent perhaps far from home and often involving participation in cultural, political or sporting activities which are usually held on free days. This social and cultural phenomenon is by no means without its positive aspects if, while respecting true values, it can contribute to people’s development and to the advancement of the life of society as a whole. All of this responds not only to the need for rest, but also to the need for celebration which is inherent in our humanity. Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a “weekend”, it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see “the heavens”.(7) Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.
In the same way, today I would strongly urge everyone to rediscover Sunday: Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us “his day” as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human.
The “Sunday obligation,” as Catholics so slavishly call it, is not just attendance at Mass. It means giving as much as possible of Sunday to Christ. It also means taking a rest. “The Sabbath is made for man,” after all. (Mark 2:27).
Jesus says that the sabbath law is not broken when we perform works of mercy or *necessary* work. But that carries with it the point that we are supposed to *prepare* for the sabbath to make work as little necessary as possible. The disciples picked grain to eat immediately; they did not cook a seven course meal.
The Church teaches that we can do *necessary* work, especially work that inherently involves compassion. The Catechism even says that a certain degree of leisure activity, specifying restaurants and sports, is permissible, so long as it still permits people to observe the Sabbath.
But how many people go to the golf course or the football stadium instead of church?
How can it be observing the sabbath to participate in a multi-billion dollar industry based upon playing professional sports on Sundays? A game in the backyard is one thing.
People insist that that is how they “rest.” But the point is that they are not participating *others* to rest. The Third Commandment does not just require personal rest; it requires that you let your “servants” rest. Watching professional football on Sunday means that a) the football players are “working.” ALl the team’s support members are “working”. The stadium staff are “working.” The television reporters and crews are “working.” The concession people are “working.”
Likewise, it is one thing to eat on Sunday because there are extenuating circumstances, but to plan to go out to eat on Sunday is requiring people to work on the Sabbath.
Even many ‘Bible belt” states are moving to repeal their Blue Laws. South Carolina has recently made several moves towards taking away people’s right not to work on Sundays.
Every time we participate in shopping, eating out or professional sports on Sundays, we are contributing to the decline of religion in our society. We are making excuses for ourselves and for others not to truly honor the Lord’s Day.
It is a mortal sin to do unnecessary labor, or to make other people do unnecessary labor, on Sundays.
In closing, here’s a short history of the Sabbath from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
The obligation of rest from work on Sunday remained somewhat indefinite for several centuries. A Council of Laodicea, held toward the end of the fourth century, was content to prescribe that on the Lord’s Day the faithful were to abstain from work as far as possible. At the beginning of the sixth century St. Caesarius, as we have seen, and others showed an inclination to apply the law of the Jewish Sabbath to the observance of the Christian Sunday. The Council held at Orléans in 538 reprobated this tendency as Jewish and non-Christian. From the eight century the law began to be formulated as it exists at eh present day, and the local councils forbade servile work, public buying and selling, pleading in the law courts, and the public and solemn taking of oaths. There is a large body of civil legislation on the Sunday rest side by side with the ecclesiastical. It begins with an Edict of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who forbade judges to sit and townspeople to work on Sunday. He made an exception in favour of agriculture. The breaking of the law of Sunday rest was punished by the Anglo-Saxon legislation in England like other crimes and misdemeanours. After the Reformation, under Puritan influence, many laws were passed in England whose effect is still visible in the stringency of the English Sabbath. Still more is this the case in Scotland. There is no federal legislation in the United States on the observance of the Sunday, but nearly all the states of the Union have statutes tending to repress unnecessary labour and to restrain the liquor traffic. In other respects the legislation of the different states on this matter exhibits considerable variety. On the continent of Europe in recent years there have been several laws passed in direction of enforcing the observance of Sunday rest for the benefit of workmen.